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Obama Is Ratings Gold

Obama on Jay Leno
AP
Obama on Jay Leno

President Obama is really the ultimate celebrity — up there with Jerry Seinfeld and Johnny Carson. His appearance on Jay Leno's "Tonight Show" puts him up there with the biggest stars of all time, in terms of his effect on ratings. This first appearance by a sitting president on a late-night talk show, brought NBC a 187 percent ratings increase over the show's average ratings. Preliminary ratings show Obama brought Leno a 11.2 rating and 26 share compared to an average rating of 3.9.

And what's good for Leno is good for Jimmy Fallon. Leno's stellar ratings gave three-week old "Late Night with Jimmy Fallon" its best ratings since it started. Let's see if Leno and Fallon can hold on to any of those viewers.

Ben Bernanke doesn't have the same kind of star power. His appearance on CBS' 60 Minutes on Sunday brought in slightly lower ratings than the show's average. The telecast delivered 12.87 million total viewers, down from a 13.4 million average and just 3.8 million adults 25-54, compared to the typical 4.2 million viewers in that age range.

Obama has quite the track record when it comes to prime time ratings. His first primetime news conference, on Monday Feb 9, bought in a combined 30.8 household rating with nearly 50 million viewers. It was aired on ABC , CBS, Fox, Univision, CNN , Fox News and MSNBC, so to a certain extent, viewers didn't have a ton of other options. And too bad for the networks and their media conglomerate parent companies—they weren't able to air advertising during that hour, so they lost out on millions of dollars of revenue.

Much to the networks' chagrin, Obama is holding another primetime press conference this coming Tuesday. If only they could monetize the ad-free news conferences the way NBC can monetize the "Tonight Show."

Questions? Comments? MediaMoney@cnbc.com

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  • Working from Los Angeles, Boorstin is CNBC's media and entertainment reporter and editor of CNBC.com's Media Money section.